Work on Monday: “Black Corset (After Horst)” by Jeff Muhs

This week’s Work on Monday examines a sculptural piece by local artist Jeff Muhs, who is best knows for his atmospheric abstract paintings. His “Black Corset (After Horst)” is part of a series of mixed media concrete sculpture made using what appears to be concrete mix that has been allowed to dry in plastic bags. This particular work is an homage to the photographs of Horst, who helped define glamour and beauty from 1961 to 1991.

Work on Monday is a weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.

Black Corset (After Horst)
Jeff Muhs (b. 1966, Southampton)
Concrete and corset
14 x 12 x 22 inches, 2011

Muhs’ sculpture is immediately arresting because of its juxtaposition of materials—the very hard, heavy and unforgiving concrete wearing a sexy, black cloth corset. One element speaks of foundations, construction and permanency, while the other is symbolic of femininity, sex, beauty, fetish and, perhaps, the pains women endure to live up to meet those ideals. By putting them together, the artist changes the context of each and shows us how one can powerfully affect the other.

Tied into the black corset, his concrete form takes on the seductive curves of a female body—the line of a soft hip, a twisting waist, shoulder blades and the top of a women’s buttocks as they connect to her lower back. Yet his corset is also influenced by the concrete, becoming stronger and more powerful, an object with the brawn to mold stone. Simply by adding this article of lingerie, Muhs has made the concrete share remarkable similarities to a woman’s figure.

In both senses of the word, the sculpture is a true “fetish” item. It is an everlasting icon of libidinous desire and female strength, an object of obsession and infatuation, and a modern day Venus that takes into account the complicated role of women today as beings of great power and control, as well as exploited and monetized objects of desire—admired in either case.

To learn more about Jeff Muhs, visit jeffmuhsstudio.com.

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